In 2016, it will be four hundred years ago that an exceptional type of white clay was discovered in the mountains around the city of Arita. That clay became the raw material for the famous Arita porcelain. The porcelain acquired world fame when Dutch merchants began exporting it from their trading post on Dejima during course of the 17th century. The refined pottery, or ‘Imari porcelain’, as it is known in Europe, was of an extremely high quality and very much in demand. Moreover, it inspired the Dutch to develop a tradition of porcelain all their own.
To this very day, the porcelain industry in the Arita region continues to work in this rich tradition. But the world has changed, and demand for this luxury product has fallen off. The great challenge is to bring it in line with the tastes of modern consumers.
For the anniversary year, the Saga Prefecture and the Dutch government have joined forces. To give the porcelain industry a new stimulus, they have been seeking out innovative and inspiring crossovers between representatives of different creative industries.
Part of that collaboration is Arita 2016/. Sixteen internationally renowned ceramic designers are working as artists-in-residence in the porcelain workshops of Arita to develop a new product line. They are immersing themselves in the rich tradition of the Japanese porcelain industry and enriching that craft with new designs and the very latest techniques. But that is not all. The Europees Keramische Werkcentrum (European Ceramic Work Centre) in the Netherlands and the Arita Ceramics Laboratory are exchanging knowledge and expertise.
The results will be presented in 2016. First in April, at the annual design fair in Milan. Then in the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, as a supplement to its existing collection of classical Japanese porcelain. For the complete special exhibition, a building in the historical centre of Amsterdam is being prepared. The products will go on sale in the fall of 2016. An anniversary book is also being published.
Art Direction: Scholten & Baijings (NL), Teruhiro Yanagihara (JP)
Email: Kumi Hiroi
Photographs: Scheltens & Abbenes